WAR COURT

ACLU seeks public access to 9/11 trial at Guantánamo, secret testimony

 

ACLU files motion with war court seeking to open 9/11 trial to general public and permit testimony the accused make about their time in secret detention to be heard.

crosenberg@miamiherald.com

The American people should be allowed to hear the five accused 9/11 conspirators describe what the CIA did to them in secret overseas prisons, the American Civil Liberties Union said in a motion filed at the Guantánamo war court late Wednesday.

“The eyes of the world are on this military commission,” the civil liberties group wrote in the 32-page motion. It was posted on the war court web site uncensored and included graphic references to water torture from a leaked International Red Cross report.

At issue is the war court system that employs a 40-second delay of the proceedings, time enough to let an intelligence official hit a white noise button if any of the men describe what CIA agents did to them after their capture in Pakistan in 2002 and 2003 and before their arrival at Guantánamo in September 2006.

The ACLU called the practice censorship. And said it was premised on “a chillingly Orwellian claim” that the accused “must be gagged lest he reveal his knowledge of what the government did to him.”

A court security officer used the white noise at an earlier, aborted effort to put the five men on trial for the terror attacks in 2008 and 2009.

It was not immediately clear whether the war court judge, Army Col. James L. Pohl, would rule on the motion before Saturday’s arraignment of accused Sept. 11 architect Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four other Guantánamo captives.

The ACLU’s executive director, Anthony Romero, said Thursday morning that his organization’s National Security director, Hina Shamsi, was seeking to join a Pentagon flight to Guantánamo on Friday in a bid to argue the point to Pohl — before the men are formally charged at Camp Justice at the U.S. Navy base at Guantánamo Bay on Saturday.

The Pentagon had no immediate comment. “The judge will decide whether the merits of their complaint have standing,” said Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale.

The ACLU lawyers also wrote that the 9/11 accused only obtained information about the CIA’s secret prison network and techniques “by virtue of the government forcing it upon them.”

They added that the government already had declassified portions of an investigation of the CIA’s own inspector general that had found agents subjected their captive to abusive treatment, and that it was in the public’s interest to hear the descriptions from the captives’ own lips.

All five face a death penalty trial by military commission at Guantánamo as the alleged organizers, funders and trainers of the 19 hijackers who commandeered four passenger aircraft on Sept. 11, 2001 and flew them into the World Trade Center, Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field, killingly nearly 3,000 people.

The brief included an affidavit from a scholar of military commissions who noted that past American tribunals were open, although held at remote locations that made it largely impossible for the public to see them.

Rather than presume information that comes from the mouths of former CIA captives is classified, the ACLU lawyers wrote, the judge is obliged to review each statement beforehand and “make factual findings on the record before permitting any national-security-related closure.”

The argument echoes one made last month to Pohl by a First Amendment lawyer at Guantánamo in the case of another waterboarded captive, Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, accused of orchestrating al Qaida’s October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole warship off Aden, Yemen.

Ten U.S. news organizations sought to challenge plans to have Nashiri testify in a closed pretrial hearing about his CIA treatment during overseas interrogation.

The judge did not rule on the issue at the hearing because Nashiri was not called to testify.

Read more Guantánamo stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
Algerian Djamel Ameziane, a 42-year-old ethnic Berber, has been approved for release but wants to go to Canada, or another country, rather than the nation he fled in 1992. His lawyers have chosen Canada because he lived there for five years, and filed a failed application for political asylum. From Canada he went to Afghanistan, where he was captured in the U.S. invasion.

    IN THE COURTS

    Ex-Guantánamo detainee can’t get his money back

    Federal judge concludes a former Guantánamo detainee may no longer be a threat, but his money is.

  •  
The Kremlin.

    Russia bans congressman, 12 other Americans

    Russia has placed a U.S. lawmaker and 12 other people connected with the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq on its list of those banned from entering the country.

  •  
In this image from video, Eugene R. Fidell, the lawyer representing Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl said Wednesday, July 16, 2014, in an interview with The Associated Press that his client has been vilified by some people, but the public should not leap to conclusions before the Army finishes its investigation into how and why the soldier left his post in Afghanistan before being captured by the Taliban.

    Bergdahl hires lawyer for military investigation

    The lawyer representing Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl said Wednesday that his client has been vilified by some people, but the public should not leap to conclusions before the Army finishes its investigation into how and why the soldier left his post in Afghanistan before being captured by the Taliban.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category